Nairobi Chamber Choir Visits BVN

On Feb. 26, 2019, members of the Nairobi Chamber Choir (NCC) from Kenya, Africa, visited BVN’s mustang voices. They performed several musical pieces, each differing in style, and took time to answer questions from students. Room 612 was filled to the brink with students, teachers and visitors curious about the Kenyan choir.

Choir teacher, Jason Sickel selected a handful of seniors to welcome the NCC. Students help posters and waited in the front of the school to greet the guests. Even upon entering the classroom, enveloped by the cool air and staring eyes of unknown high schoolers, the NCC presented an ease of energy. When the room didn’t swell with music, it was often filled with laughter. Senior Alexa Boyd was one of several to welcome the NCC.

“It was amazing being able to meet a group of people who have been able to do and see so many things,” Boyd said. “My first impression of them was a group that was very close and liked to have a lot of fun. It was obvious from the start that they loved what they did. Even though the group was jet lagged and tired from their travels, they put a lot of energy into their music and performance.”

The Nairobi Chamber Choir was founded in 2005 by Ken Wakia. Since its founding, over 70 performers have taken part in the NCC. One of the choir’s main goals resides in the promotion of peace by sharing different cultures and utilizing communication with aspiring Kenyan musicians, according to NCC website.

The NCC has performed for high school students in East Africa, renowned musical companies, Her Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee pageant and an endless list of tours around the world.

The 23 members of the NCC began their trip at BVN with a performance. Their performance included a variety of different soloists, sounds and melodies. With different instruments keeping rhythm in the background and the movement of the performers, the song was a captivating introduction to a new realm of music.

Even upon the song’s closing notes and leftover silence, the NCC was continuously in motion. Between two different hemispheres, a common love for music and eager curiosity crafted a comradery and connection within the young choir members through movement and conversation.

With an IT specialist, a lawyer, music teacher, and U.S. embassy worker, the Kenyan choir includes a variety of people. For high schoolers approaching college ambitions, these diverse backgrounds demonstrate the ability to pursue a future in music regardless of their elected major.

As questioning continued, many students grew curious about the requirements and technical practices in the NCC. For auditions, Wakia explained that studying music was not required. Instead the NCC focuses upon for a specific type of voice that they currently lack in the choir and full of potential.

In preparation for their performances, the NCC practices two times a month with a variety of different style of music and work upon blend, balance and unified vowel sounds. To demonstrate the importance of their practice and work upon specific skill sets, Wakia shifted performers among their section.

“What I thought was most surprising was that most of the members didn’t have musical backgrounds prior to auditioning or had musical careers. . .” Boyd said. “The group was scouted for the ‘potential’ in a voice and not their current skill set, and I think that’s amazing.”

Among Kenya, there are 42 different tribes that speak their own language with a different interpretation of vowel sounds. Within the NCC there are eight different tribes represented. This representation of culture demonstrates the adversity that the NCC works to overcome. Yet, even amongst the differing interpretation, Wakia has worked to maintain a unified sound among the performers.

As a final question, students asked about some cultural facts about Kenya. As students looked eagerly amongst the NCC, Wakia looked seriously upon his curiously audience before saying “we have lions as pets.” A burst of laughter amongst the choir and thrilled students was followed by a disappointed groan upon the realization of Wakia’s joke. The choir’s real answer was given to students as Wakia described that Kenya is the best place to take a safari trip with luxury tents to see elephants and other exotic animals.

The NCC demonstrated great joy among their music and celebration of culture. Wakia stated that Africa is a singing continent which reigned true as the performers often broke into song in response to a question from students, spontaneous dance and endless array of different music styles.

With the exposure to new styles of music and culture from around the world, the Nairobi Chamber Choir’s performance for the BVN mustang voices demonstrated the tie of music that works to knock down walls that separate those of different languages, race and religion.

“Being able to hear this group was truly surreal,” Boyd said. “I came close to crying multiple times during the performances because of just how beautiful it was . . . I’ll always remember their visit and once they have recordings out to purchase, I’ll be one of the first to buy.”